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Vulnerability is sometimes described as a negative or undesirable experience. After all, we evolved to protect ourselves and our families and make sure we are not susceptible to attack.

However, in recent years, the concept of vulnerability as an important and beneficial mental health practice has emerged.

Author and speaker Brene Brown researches the concepts of courage, belonging and personal growth, and says that

“Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.” 

So how can vulnerability—a sometimes scary concept—actually improve mental, emotional and social health? Here are five ways vulnerability can be a powerful tool.

  1. It can help us be more authentic. According to GoodTherapy, being vulnerable indicates the possibility of being hurt but also leads to the increased ability to live an authentic life.
  2. It can open our hearts to enjoy life more. Musician Bob Marley is quoted as saying that “being vulnerable is the only way to allow your heart to feel true pleasure.”
  3. It can allow for deeper connection and cooperation. Author Daniel Coyle studied some of the world’s most effective culture-driven teams and found that shared vulnerability was a marker of success for every group. According to Coyle, “exchanges of vulnerability, which we naturally tend to avoid, are the pathways through which trusting cooperation is built.”
  4. It can help prevent perfectionism. Vulnerability is often an antidote to perfectionism and can help us experience more long-term success. Brene Brown told Forbes that “perfectionism is not the key to success. In fact, research shows that perfectionism hampers achievement. Perfectionism is correlated with depression, anxiety, addiction.”
  5. It can help us understand ourselves. By being vulnerable and admitting our struggles and fears, we can form a more loving and accepting view of ourselves. Brazillian musician Paola Coelho is quoted as saying “the strongest love is the love that can demonstrate its fragility.”